Police have stepped up patrols at N.P. schools

Police have stepped up patrols at N.P. schools

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Hoping to quell concerns from the community about the safety of North Providence schools in the wake of the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Supt. Bridget Morisseau told the School Committee last week that police have ramped up their presence at the town’s educational facilities.

Morisseau said officials are constantly re-assessing local safety measures.

“Our school safety plans are never finished plans,” said Morisseau. “We’re constantly going back to the table and asking what new best practices we can implement … we try to stay ahead of what those recommendations are.”

Morisseau said schools maintain a close relationship with the town’s police department. She thanked officers, saying they go above and beyond to make sure that schools are safe. After the most recent shooting, North Providence Police Department increased its presence on school property, encouraging officers to stop into schools daily if possible.

North Providence currently has two school resource officers. There is one officer assigned to the high school, while a second splits his time between two middle schools. Officials hope to add a third officer for the district, so there can be an officer dedicated to each middle school.

“These officers are our lifeline each and every day, and we thank the chief for allocating these resources to the school department,” Morisseau said. “The partnership with the North Providence Police Department is an integral part of what I do as superintendent. Our students can’t learn if they don’t feel safe … this is the foundation of what we do.”

North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian said North Providence has successfully struck a balance in its schools between security and freedom. In addition to routine lockdown drills and other protocol practice, the district has two shooter detection systems.

The superintendent said she visited schools with police recently to make a list of necessary infrastructure upgrades and other repairs related to safety. Officials from the school department and police department hope to address students in the coming weeks to talk about student safety and making good decisions, including on social media. They also plan to schedule an active shooter drill during April vacation, when police can practice using the active shooter detection system while students are out of school.

“We’re here to work as a team. Whatever we can do for the community, we’re ready, willing and able to do so,” Tikoian said.

The superintendent said one piece that could be missing in school safety measures is the voice of students and parents. She encouraged people to speak out when they see or hear something suspicious.

“Students are often first made aware of warning signs of danger. When tragedies are avoided, it’s typically because someone has come forward with concerns to tell a trusting adult. We want parents and students to continue to do that,” she said.

To that end, officials created a TIPS reporting form on the district website allowing anyone to report concerns or incidents that may have occurred, such as bullying, threats and discrimination.

“This is one more avenue for people to provide us with important information,” Morisseau said.

School Committee Chairman Anthony Marciano said the town is ahead of the curve on school safety, but schools need to do more to address mental health issues.

“When we start focusing on the very sick people who need help, it will go a long way in preventing some of the tragedies that we’ve witnessed,” he said. “You can have metal detectors and guards at the door and whatever else you want, but if you don’t prevent the people who are sick from getting weapons, what good is it? After 9/11 we thought our skies would never be safe again … if we can make our skies safe we can make our schools safe.”